Nigeria’s D’Tigers have qualified for the second consecutive final of the Afrobasket championship, beating Senegal in an enthralling semifinal match on Friday in Tunisia.
In a game marred by the delay in replacing the backboard following a Youssoupa Ndoye’s slam dunk, D’Tigers held their own against favourites Senegal to win the contest 76-71 points.
Coming into the game, Senegal were the favourites as they were yet to lose a game, and with Nigeria playing with mainly new players from the crop that won two years ago, it looked like the more compact Senegalese side would win.
However it was Nigeria who emerged from the contest with a berth in the final where they will now play the host country Tunisia.
It was far from being an easy game for either side as neither hardly went on an extended run to control the contest. When Nigeria led 18-12 in the first quarter, it looked like they would open up the gap, but Senegal leveled at 18-18 and made sure they were in it.
D’Tigers went into the break leading by 5 points, then Senegal came out in the 3rd quarter and made it 34-34, and the two teams went on to tie at 40-40. However when Ayodeji Akindele slammed in a dunk to put Nigeria 4 points clear, they started having the belief they could pull it off.
Nigeria stretched the lead to 7 points, and skipper Ike Diogu came up with a crucial 2-point shot at the start of the 4th quarter which further put Nigeria 9 up, and they went on to even stretch the lead at some point to 12.
When Nigeria went on a 7-0 run, they started having the confidence they could win it. Senegal didn’t give up and they tried to conjure up something to overturn the result, but it was not to be as D’Tigers held on strongly to see out the game.
For Nigeria, Bryant Mbamalu led with 19 points and 4 rebounds, while Ike Diogu made double-double, with 17 points and 14 rebounds. For Senegal, two players tied at 14 points apiece, Gorgui Dieng & Maurice Ndour, while Clevin Hannah made 13 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists.
This is the second time in two years Nigeria will be defeating Senegal, and incidentally it was also in the semifinal. If D’Tigers beat the host country Tunisia on Saturday, they will be one of a few countries alongside Angola to successfully defend the Afrobasket title.